Smart Leaders Invest in Their Employees
Workplace Wellness We assembled a panel of leaders in various fields to find out what strategies work best for strengthening employee wellness.
How can employers better invest in their employees’ health and loyalty?
Jennifer Lupton: Companies looking to attract and retain top talent must invest in building a rich and positive workplace culture. Today’s recruiting environment is incredibly competitive, and companies wanting to separate themselves from the pack need to think beyond starting salary. They need to take a holistic view of compensation that extends to culture and employee well-being. That means fostering an environment that motivates, inspires and challenges talented people who feel like they are working together toward a shared mission.
Kate Renwick-Espinosa: Consider offering vision benefits to your employees on top of medical. We continue to see healthcare costs rise and the prevalence of chronic conditions plays a huge part in this. One in 10 adults has diabetes. A third of all adults have high cholesterol and/or high blood pressure. So early detection becomes paramount and an annual eye exam can play a key role. Doctors of optometry performing a comprehensive eye exam can catch these types of conditions early — before they become costly and impact employees’ health. In fact, research found that a VSP Wellness Exam was the first to detect diabetes 34 percent of the time, high cholesterol 39 percent of the time, and hypertension 62 percent of the time.
Crockett Dale: The physical, mental, and emotional health of any employee population is influenced by that company’s commitment to health as a priority. Employers have recognized the adverse effects of poor health: absenteeism, high turnover, low productivity, and high healthcare costs. But when integrating wellness programs, new technologies, and onsite health services, it signals a true commitment to every employee’s well-being. These initiatives build trust, retain talent, and set the development of a health-minded culture.
Health and wellness are cultural, not transactional. Onsite medical care, virtual appointments, wellness check-ups, mental health visits, and occupational medicine bridge the access gap for young workers all the way to those nearing retirement. Familiarity and trust are the first points of success, which can lead to higher productivity through improved health and wellness. Talent acquisition and retention turn into long-term victories for the company and its culture.
Doug Claffey: Our research shows that employees want to belong, feel valued and get recognized. They also want career growth. Leaders of healthy workplaces take an employee-centric approach to creating an environment that supports these needs. Employees in this type of environment are more committed, give their best at work — and even recommend the organization to others.
Brent Vaughan: By responding to their employees’ full life experiences. The line between work and home is more blurred than ever and employers need to support employees in managing both. This is particularly important for employees caring for children. The stress of caregiving places pressure on employees and makes them feel spread too thin. Many companies invest heavily in supporting employees through pregnancy and the first year of their child’s life, but the stress doesn’t end there. Employers need to recognize that employees bring their full selves to work each day. So while they strive to excel at work, employees may also be worried and distracted by common parenting challenges like sleep, tantrums, and language development or more significant delays like autism or ADHD. Providing tools and support to help alleviate this stress is a good investment in their peace of mind, and the employer’s ability to attract and retain top talent.
In your opinion, what major challenge do companies face when trying to improve workplace wellness and employee retention?
JL: One of the biggest challenges in modern workplaces is the tendency for individuals and teams to operate in silos. As well as stifling company growth, these organizational breakdowns also impact employee morale and retention. If companies want to keep their team happy and loyal, they must address this head-on and take active steps to build a culture of collaboration and cohesion.
KR: One of the biggest challenges we see for our clients is finding a solution that fits each employee. This is no surprise. All around us we’re hearing consumers asking for more tailored offerings and companies are responding. In fact, nearly three in four employees say having benefits customized to meet their needs would increase their loyalty to their employer. With a more diverse workforce than ever before, and a complex healthcare system, this isn’t always easy to deliver.
CD: There’s no silver bullet to boost health, raise morale or shift an organization’s culture. All employers know that their most valuable asset is their employees. And a culture that prioritizes health and happiness will always attract and retain top talent. People want to feel valued, and they want to feel a sense of control and purpose in their work.
Overworked and stressed employees can lead to an unhealthy and unproductive workforce. And if employees aren’t shown the potential of a wellness program and its ability to change lives, they won’t participate. It’s the job of companies and wellness teams to spotlight and demonstrate the scope of these programs, and what employees stand to gain from them. Incentives can be useful, but communicating with transparency the purpose, goals, and abilities of a wellness program encourages engagement across the board.
DC: Often, the biggest challenge is shifting the mindset of senior leaders. When they make a conscious decision to put employees at the center of their thinking, and become intentional about creating a healthy workplace culture, the other elements fall into place. Really, it’s a matter of making it a priority.
BV: Supporting employees who care for children beyond parental leave, lactation support and expectant mother parking spaces. Caregivers of young children have unique stress that is largely ignored because programs, benefits and even the knowledge to serve them just isn’t available. Employees are often afraid to share how everyday parenting challenges impact them. With one in four parents missing five hours of work a week due to child development challenges, employers are at a loss. If the challenge becomes too great, employees will feel the need to leave their jobs and employers will lose a valued member of their team. In addition to retaining current employees, by providing inclusive benefits that support the whole employee, cutting edge companies can recruit top talent by demonstrating that they truly care about employees and are aligned with what matters to them.
What is one industry trend that is helping to combat this major challenge you just mentioned?
JL: Meal perks are one of the top employee wellness trends for businesses of all sizes. Our Food in the Workplace survey indicated that 60 percent of employees want healthy food options at work. Bringing people together over a meal is a great way to break down barriers across the organization and help your employees foster meaningful relationships outside their immediate teams. Grubhub for Work partners with thousands of companies across the U.S. to offer daily lunch programs for individual employees and teams, but even something as simple as a well-stocked fridge or delicious snack selection can make an impact.
KR: It’s important to listen and offer solutions that people want. And what people want is a more personalized benefit. So what we’re seeing is a shift toward coverage options that offer more flexibility and individualization. For VSP, we lead the industry by offering EasyOptions, a one-of-a-kind vision plan that offers each member the flexibility to choose a covered upgrade after they get a prescription from their doctor. The VSP Individual Vision Plan is another option for employers to offer to retirees, part-time, seasonal and contracted employees — folks who typically fall outside an employee-sponsored benefit. This has proven to be a great option to help retain or positively offboard employees at zero additional cost or administrative burden for employers.
CD: Onsite clinics. The miraculous innovations in healthcare and wellness are allowing us to leverage data and analytics that improve and personalize care. This cultivates the ‘human’ side of medicine for providers and patients alike.
Giving employers and providers the keys to engaging their populations in preventive ways, rather than reacting to disease and illness, is fundamental to helping people make lasting changes and adopt healthier habits that are sustainable in the long run. Progressive onsite clinics are more than just wellness programs; they offer affordable, convenient, and personal access to quality services including primary medicine, physical therapy, mental health, and virtual care. Done right, onsite clinics deliver a tectonic shift to a company’s culture. Personalized access to health and wellness care builds trust with employees. Trust is what attracts and retains top talent, and the improvements in health save valuable resources that can be invested in ongoing wellness initiatives.
DC: Innovations around giving employees a voice and mining feedback for insights. New technology allows progressive organizations to intentionally craft a workplace culture that engages employees, unlocks potential and delivers amazing business results. After all, the best ideas don’t come from the top. They originate from the frontlines.
BV: Providing programs to support working parents after the first year as part of an inclusive culture. Recognizing employee stress and providing tools to address issues like sleep, tantrums, or development delays can make the difference between a productive and happy employee and one who is distracted or leaving the workforce entirely. Today digital health resources that can be accessed through a mobile app are stepping in to fill this gap whether that’s with personalized and easy to follow recommendations from child development experts or 24/7 coaching and therapy. Additionally, clinically validated tools that can be used to help caregivers detect developmental delays early and can be easily shared with their doctors, can lead to cost savings and claims reduction for the employer and lifelong gains for the children.